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Obituaries

Timothy Elbourne, 65; Former Aide in Nixon White House

August 23, 2004|Dennis McLellan | Times Staff Writer

Timothy G. Elbourne, a former Nixon White House aide who made unexpected news in 1974 when Soviet security men hustled him out of a Kremlin tea for First Lady Pat Nixon, has died. He was 65.

Elbourne died of natural causes Aug. 7 at his home in Idyllwild, said his friend, Sandy Quinn, assistant director of the Richard Nixon Library & Birthplace in Yorba Linda.

Elbourne's encounter with two Soviet security men was the result of a misunderstanding.

He had been escorting photographers into the tea, given by Mrs. Leonid I. Brezhnev. The rest of the media, according to an Associated Press account, was unaware of what happened until they saw Elbourne, "a Russian on either side of him, being propelled across the room."

The Russians, the AP report said, apparently thought Elbourne was not authorized to be in the room.

"I give up, I give up," Elbourne was quoted as saying with a forced smile before a Secret Service agent and another White House aide persuaded the security men to let him go.

Before the encounter, Elbourne had been passing out Mickey Mouse lapel pins to Soviet and American officials.

Elbourne had been an advance man for the Nixon administration from 1969 to 1973, when he left to become president of the new Walt Disney Travel Co. The White House had asked him to come back to handle advance work for the Moscow trip.

Born in Pomona and raised in North Hollywood, Elbourne graduated from USC in 1961 with a degree in journalism and public relations. He later worked with the public relations and campaign management firm of Spencer-Roberts and Associates on various Southern California political races.

In 1966, about three months before Walt Disney's death, Elbourne became a special assistant at Retlaw, the Disney family company. He served during the early development of the California Institute of the Arts, now housed in Valencia on a large campus partly endowed by Disney.

In 1968, Elbourne joined his old USC roommate Ronald Ziegler in the press operation of Nixon's presidential campaign. After Nixon took office, Elbourne was asked to join the White House staff.

During his Nixon years, Elbourne traveled widely preparing for press coverage of the president's domestic and international trips, including his historic 1972 journey to the People's Republic of China.

Elbourne later assisted with the 1990 grand opening of the Richard Nixon Library & Birthplace and with Nixon's funeral there in 1994.

He is survived by his wife, Inge; daughters Kathy Hargis of Austin, Tex., and Kirsten Mathieson of Cambria; and four grandchildren. His son, Timothy Jr., died last year.

A memorial service for Elbourne will be held at 4 p.m. Sunday at the Richard Nixon Library & Birthplace, 18001 Yorba Linda Blvd., Yorba Linda.

Instead of flowers, the family requests that donations in Elbourne's name be sent to Maitri Hospice, 401 Duboce St., San Francisco, CA 94117.

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